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    North America Travel

    Nine Things to do in Tucson Arizona

    Location: Tucson Arizona

    We spent two fabulous weeks exploring and getting to know the high desert area of Tucson Arizona. It was unexpected. I loved pretty much everything about it and I will definitely come back next winter. In fact, I really think I could spend several months a year in this lovely town, surrounded by nature. Here are the things I loved the most, the nine things to do in Tucson Arizona.

    Organ Pipe Cactus

    Saguaro National Park

    Saguaro National Park
    Saguaro National Park

    You must spend time in this remarkable place. It is not the biggest national park, or the most diverse, but it is indeed a gem. Saguaro National Park offers hikes for people of all capacities from nature walks (wheelchair accessible) to multi-day excursions. We enjoyed all of the hikes we did, short and long, and especially the unique desert plants. Saguaro National Park.

    Sabino Canyon National Forest

    Sabino Canyon
    Sabino Canyon

    This is where we enjoyed my favorite hike during our visit, called Phone Line Trail. We hiked more than nine miles on this trail, that cuts across the side of a mountain with spectacular views. But you don’t need to be able to hike that distance to enjoy Sabino Canyon. A National Forest Service tram provides transportation into the canyon. You can walk a portion of the canyon, and then catch the tram at your leisure. Sabino Canyon.

    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
    Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

    I always love learning about the local flora and fauna and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is one of the finest of this kind of museum I have ever seen. Acres of desert flora are marked with interpretive and interactive signage. Indoor exhibits of reptiles, birds, and a replica of an underground cave give visitors a up close look at desert life. The museum also is home to a mountain lion, bear, wolves and javelina. Don’t miss this wonderful place. Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

    Tucson Botanical Garden

    Tucson Botanical Gardens
    Tucson Botanical Gardens

    This historic site was once home to the Porter Family, a leading Tucson family in the landscaping business. The property has been home to the Tucson Botanical Garden since 1974. Beautiful gardens offer a wonderful look at desert plants from aloe to cactus including an herb garden, butterfly garden and pollinator garden. Definitely worth a visit. Tucson Botanical Garden

    The Barrio Viejo

    Barrio Viejo
    Barrio Viejo

    This historic neighborhood was once home to to Tucson’s working class, immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Africa, Asia and Europe. The adobe homes were built in the 1800’s as Tucson grew in agriculture and as a crossroads in the Southwest.

    Unfortunately many of the old buildings were bulldozed during Tucson’s “revitalization” period when the new convention center was built. Today, the remaining homes are becoming popular to purchase and restore and a walk through these neighborhoods offers a peek into Tucson’s history as well as a colorful opportunity for photographers. Barrio Viejo.

    The Tucson Museum of Art

    Tucson Museum of Art
    Tucson Museum of Art

    As we were walking around Tucson we noticed the Tucson Museum of Art was offering a special exhibit of the works of the Wyeth Family. My husband and I both love the work of Andrew Wyeth so we thought we should check it out. The beautiful museum is right in the center of Tucson in a newish building that is attached to one of the most historic homes of Tucson.

    The $12 entrance fees seemed very reasonable and we not only enjoyed the Wyeth Family exhibit, but wandered through all the permanent exhibits of the museum. Well worth a couple of hours when visiting Tucson. Tucson Museum of Art

    San Xavier del Bac Mission

    San Xavier del Bac Mission
    San Xavier del Bac Mission

    A truly unexpected beauty of a mission rises up out of the desert like a white beacon about ten miles outside of Tucson. This National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.  Entrance is free and it is definitely worth checking it out. Very beautiful. San Xavier del Bac Mission.

    Walking Tour Historic Tucson – Presido Trail

    From the original Presidio in historic Tucson you can easily walk in any direction to multiple buildings and sites of historic significance. Throughout this walk you will also find numerous historic markers interpreting the unique and interesting history of Tucson. Tucson is home to several sites on the National Historic Register. It’s an easy walk (flat) for just about anyone and worth an hour or more depending on your interest. Presidio Walking Trail

    Historic Congress Hotel
    Historic Tain Depot

    Mount Lemmon

    Mount Lemmon
    Mount Lemmon

    On one of the colder days during our visit we drove up Mount Lemmon all the way to where the road ends. This drive offers spectacular views as well as some hiking options. Worth a half a day to see how the landscape changes from saguaro to pines. Beautiful. Mount Lemmon

    Thanks Tucson

    There you go, nine things to do in Tucson Arizona. Throughout the area there are several places designed to show visitors what the old west was like, but they aren’t authentic and I usually shy away from such things. But if you are interested to learn more about the wider variety of things to see and do in this remarkable region of Arizona at Visit Tucson. There are certainly more than nine things to do in Tucson Arizona…but this will give you a start.

    We will definitely be back. Thanks Tucson. We loved you.

    Want to take a day trip south? Read our post Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson Arizona.

    Next week we will post about our favorite food in Tucson.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier

    Reading Wednesday

    One of my favorite books I read over the past few years was a little known book called Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. I really enjoyed that book, as well as her most well-known book The Girl With the Pearl Earring. So when The Lady and the Unicorn popped up on my Kindle recommendations I thought I would give it a try. Here is my book review The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier.

    Chevalier consistently writes books about strong female characters who challenge the constraints women endured in the past. In The Lady and the Unicorn, Chevalier’s brilliant research about one of today’s greatest masterpieces, combines with her imagination to create The Lady and the Unicorn.

    We are transported to Paris and Belgium in 1490, where a French nobleman commissions tapestries to elevate himself in the eyes of the French Court. We meet artist Nicholas des Innocents who creates the paintings the tapestries will be based on. We meet Georges de la Chappelle whose family will risk everything to weave the tapestries. And throughout this story we meet women and young girls who, behind the scenes play a remarkable role in the story that unfolds in the tapestry…the story of the Lady and the Unicorn.

    I love well written novels about this time period and Chevalier never disappoints. I learned amazing information about what it took in that period to create such tapestries. And as in all Chevalier’s novels, the underlying story of the women captivated me.

    By the way, the medieval tapestries, now restored, can be seen in the Cluny Museum in Paris. My next visit to the City of Lights will include a visit to the The Lady and the Unicorn. I hope you enjoyed my book review The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier.

    *****Five Stars for The Lady and the Unicorn

    Read last week’s review Rabbits for Food

    My current read News of the World

    See this week’s top performing pin The Flora of the Desert here

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    North America Travel

    Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson Arizona

    Location: Arizona USA

    There is a wide variety of activities to enjoy while visiting Tucson Arizona, without ever leaving town. But if you have the time, make your way south for some colorful history and fun. Enjoy Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson.

    Tubac

    Any of these three destinations could also be an overnight destination, but we left Tucson around 8 am and headed first to Tubac. About an hour and half drive to the tiny historic town, known for its historic presidio (fort in Spanish). The seven dollar entrance fee is well worth it to explore the presidio and learn about its history, which began in 1691 as a small Spanish Mission. The presidio served the Spanish, the Mexicans and even the Apache over the generations. Today it is an Arizona State Park.

    Southwest style pottery in Tubac

    Tubac is also a great destination for acquiring lovely Southwest pottery, glass and metal art. We spent about two hours total in Tubac (if shopping, you could easily spend more), including breakfast at the Stables Ranch and Grill, on the grounds of the Tubac Golf Resort. The resort is located on a 400 year old Spanish farm and ranch.

    Presidio in Tubac
    Historic Adobe School House, Tubac

    Learn more about Tubac here.

    Bisbee

    Our Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone Day Trip from Tucson continued as we drove almost two hours to Bisbee. The two lane road, and eventually a highway wind south nearly to the Mexican border before heading east through endless grass lands with mountain ranges distant. A beautiful drive.

    There are three main areas to explore in Bisbee. First are the open pit mines, a giant scar on the earth from the copper and silver mining that ruled this region for decades. Today there is no mining but you can take a tour of the mines. If you don’t want to take a tour you can just stand on the edge of the pit and be amazed at the devastation.

    Pit mine, Bisbee

    Near by is the former town of Lowell, which has been incorporated into Bisbee. Most of the town of Lowell was swallowed up when the Lavender Pit Mine was expanded, leaving only Erie Street intact. Businesses on Erie Street struggled to survive with few residents left. Today, preservationists keep Erie colorful for tourists, even though only one business remains open. It lives up to it’s name as an eerie mining ghost town.

    Erie Street, Lowell Arizona

    Old Bisbee, also hit by hard times, still offers a colorful and historic story of small town mining life with several museums and a historic hotel in the middle of town. Built on the side of a mountain, surveying the town requires climbing stairs, but the views are worth it. Quaint and quirky Bisbee is worth two hours, and more if you take the mine tour. Stop for a beer at the Bisbee Brewing Company.

    Bisbee
    Bisbee Brewing
    Lowell

    Learn more about Bisbee here.

    Tombstone

    The most famous of these three towns was actually my least favorite, although I am glad we stopped. The historic old town of Tombstone, site of the infamous shootout at the OK Coral, is now a very touristy destination. But much of the old town remains, and local lore draws thousands of visitors to witness the “shootout” re-enactment several times a day at multiple locations.

    Tombstone

    The OK Corral is a Historical Landmark and the Tombstone Courthouse is a State Historical Park. Stagecoach rides through town are popular, and costumed characters wander about. Souvenir shops and restaurants occupy the remaining old west buildings. We recommend a meal at Big Nose Kate’s with excellent live music and the movie Tombstone on continuously on the big screen.

    An hour is enough in Tombstone, unless you plan to do the 45 minute “shootout” show (there is a shorter option too) or plan to do a lot of shopping.

    Tombstone
    Tombstone

    Learn more about Tombstone here.

    Your Tubac, Bisbee, Tombstone day trip from Tucson ends with a one hour drive back to Tucson; we were back a little after 5:00 PM. A very enjoyable day trip if you have the time when visiting Tucson – a city filled with history, scenery, recreation and more.

    Watch for next Friday’s blog all about Tucson.

    See last week’s blog about Senstional Sedona Arizona

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Rabbits for Food by Binny Kirshenbaum

    This is a book about mental illness. But don’t let that scare you away. Because honestly we all should make an effort to better understand what mental illness is. And thanks to the brilliant, and often comical writing of Binny Kirshenbaum, Rabbits for Food helps us learn. Here is my book review Rabbits for Food by Binny Kirshenbaum.

    Rabbits for Food follows the life of a clinicallly depressed, admittedly outcast, outspoken and witty New York writer Bunny. Bunny has known she was “different” and unloved throughout most of her life, raised in a family who didn’t understand and didn’t care about the demons she harbored.

    On New Years Eve at a dinner party with “friends”, Bunny becomes unhinged and lands in a prestigious New York mental institution. She refuses to take any treatment, and instead befriends a handful of other “loonies” who help her see she is not alone. As her own personal therapy she begins to write – pages and pages- about the facility and the variety of people living and dyeing there.

    It’s not a happy book in any way, despite some comic relief. But is it is a brutally honest look at one woman’s lifelong struggle, the institutionalized, and the revolving door of mental health services in America. I hope you enjoyed my book review of Rabbits for Food by Binny Kirshenbaum.

    ****Four stars for Rabbits for Food by Binny Kirshenbaum

    Read last week’s review of Olive Again

    My current read Simon the Fiddler

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    North America Travel

    Sensational Sedona

    Mother Nature’s Masterpiece in Arizona

    Location: Sedona Arizona

    Why have I not been here before? Of all the traveling we have done, somehow this place has eluded me. And here is the silver lining of the PanDamit…my travels are now focused on my home country of the United States. And I have discovered Sensational Sedona.

    Cathedral Rock

    We had six days to explore Sensational Sedona. We kept very busy, and could easily have stayed longer. So of course we will come back. March is a good time to visit, although it was busy with families due to Arizona spring break. But if I return I’ll come during the quieter off season times, such as October and November or January and February.

    Bell Rock
    Bell Rock
    Church of the Holy Cross

    Mother Nature’s Masterpiece

    At 4000 foot elevation you can see a wide variety of weather in March. And we did. During our six day visit we saw temperatures as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 72. And one morning we woke up to three inches of snow…which melted by midday.

    Baldwin Trail

    We’ve seen a lot of Arizona on previous road trips. I’ve visited the Phoenix and Scottsdale area several times, including all the surrounding communities. I imagined Sedona would be similar with the brown desert colors. Wow was I wrong. Sedona is Mother Nature’s masterpiece. She has created an artists pallet of red, green, orange, buff, gold, gray and blue. She was showing off a bit when she made this place. Sensational Sedona.

    Devils Bridge Trail
    Airport Mesa Loop Trail
    Cathedral Rock Trail

    We came to hike. And we did. Nearly every day. Yet we hardly touched the surface of the immense number of hikes available in the area. We climbed rocks, traversed valleys, forded streams and stood in awe of the magnificent views all around. There is no place like it that I have ever been…and here it is right in my own back yard. I can’t find enough adjectives to express all that this place makes me feel. Energized, astonished, inspired. It is breathtaking, magnificent, sumptuous. Sensational Sedona.

    Hot Air Balloon at dawn from Chuckwagon Trail
    Baldwin Trail
    Golfing at Sedona Golf Resort
    Devils Bridge view

    Sacred Sedona

    People come here not just to hike, although that is the most popular activity. But many people come here because they believe Sedona is sacred. And more than sacred, they believe this place has a gravitational pull that creates energy and strength. I may not believe all of this but it’s easy to see how this place can affect people this way…create a spirit, a vision, a passion for the earth. I can’t deny it is magical. Sensational Sedona.

    And so we have been baptized to the wonders of Sedona. And we will never be the same. I can’t wait to come back and experience it all again. Sensational Sedona.

    Star Gazing
    Boynton Canyon Trail
    Courthouse Rock

    Learn more about Sedona here.

    See this week’s top performing pin here Idle Away in Idyllwild.

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Olive Again by Elizabeth Stout

    Reading Wednesday

    This book. This character. Holy Cow. There has never been a character like Olive Kitteridge in literature history. I enjoyed this book just as much as the first book Olive Kitteridge, and didn’t want it to end. Here is my book review Olive Again by Elizabeth Stout.

    It’s hard to describe the plot of this book…but there are so many adjectives to describe Olive herself. Cranky, cantankerous, outspoken, rude. But she is also empathetic, insightful, kind and sad. All of these things make up this astonishing character who you can’t help falling in love with.

    In Olive Again, we find Olive dealing with her aging body, and end of life issues with the same honest and sometimes bewildering approach she had in the first book. Alone and nearly friendless Olive searches for peace of mind while trying to understand all that has happened in her 80 plus year life.

    She is a character for the ages and this book will pull at your heartstrings and make you think of your own parents and your own life. Stout is a brilliant writer and Olive is my favorite of all time.

    The kind of book you won’t be able to stop thinking about when you close it for the last time.

    *****Five stars for Olive Again by Elizabeth Stout

    Read last week’s review of The Midnight Library

    My current read The Lady and the Unicorn

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    Food & Drink  --  North America Travel

    Favorite Dining Discoveries Around Palm Springs

    Location: Palm Springs California

    We spent seven weeks in the greater Palm Springs area, enjoying the weather, hiking, golf and much more. We didn’t eat out a lot, both due to Covid and to stay on budget. But when we did eat out we tried to visit some of the best of the valley, as well as some lesser known places. There are literally thousands of restaurants to chose from. Everything from Mexican or burgers to seafood and steak. Every cuisine of the world is available somewhere in the area. And we made some favorite dining discoveries around Palm Springs.

    Sherman’s Deli

    We tried to explore and through our exploration we offer a list of some favorites we found. Next time you are in the greater Palm Springs California area, you might consider some of these restaurants. And by the way, wherever you are, please support local restaurants and shops to help keep them alive and well during the pandamit…oops I mean pandemic.

    Eat Here

    Sherman’s Deli – an institution in the valley, Sherman’s is a true New York style deli and bakery. We ate here twice, once for lunch and once for dinner. In true NY fashion they served Matzo Ball soup, Corned Beef on Rye, Chopped Liver, Hot Pastrami and much much more. https://shermansdeli.com/menus/

    Sherman’s Deli

    Tyler’s Burgers – Many people recommended Tyler’s to us as the best burger in the valley, so yep had to try it. We both had the bacon cheeseburger and it was real good…but even better was the amazing potato salad, just like my mom used to make. http://tylersburgers.com

    Potato Salad at Tyler’s

    Grind Burger – my husband Arne thinks this was the best burger in the valley. A tiny little eat in or take-away joint in Palm Desert. https://www.gastrogrindburgers.com

    Armando’s Mexican – on El Paseo in Palm Desert you’ll find dozens of restaurants, but we happened upon Armando’s (no website) for just an appetizer and drink one afternoon. Outdoor seating was excellent, service was great and so was the food.

    Paul Bar – located in a sad little strip mall, Paul Bar was a huge surprise. Despite currently only being take-out, we loved our food we got there, especially the Bacon Balsamic Brussels Sprouts. https://www.thepaulbarps.com

    Take out from Paul Bar

    Pieros – one of the best meals I had anywhere in the valley. Pieros is known for it’s pizza but I had the Short Ribs and Arne ordered Lasagna. We also enjoyed the Tuscan Wedge Salad. This is definitely one of my favorite dining discoveries around Palm Springs. https://www.pizzavinotogo.com

    Lasagna at Pieros

    Chef Georges Picasso – hidden in a little shopping center in the tiny community of Bermuda Dunes near La Quinta, this place has a giant menu of many European specialties and a particular focus on Hungarian food. Great service, huge portions. http://chefgeorgespicasso.com

    Hungarian Goulash

    Lavender Bistro- definitely the loveliest meal we had both for ambiance and food. This was a bit of a splurge for us but worth it for sure. A gorgeous lighted patio, well protected from the wind and top-notch service in every way. My filet mignon and Caesar salad were perfect. https://www.lavenderbistro.com

    Filet Mignon at Lavender

    John Henry’s – we learned about this restaurant from a local couple we golfed with. They said we had to try it, even though few visitors ever go there. I’m really glad we did. The outdoor patio was beautiful and everyone in our group enjoyed their food from steak to sea Bass. I had Osso Buco and it was delicious. Reservations a must. https://www.johnhenryscafe.com

    Lemon Cake at John Henry’s

    The Daily Grill – located on El Paseo in Palm Desert this is a great place to sit on the outdoor patio and watch the ridiculously expensive cars drive by: Bentley…Maserati..Jaguar.. Ferrari. Excellent and inexpensive for breakfast lunch or dinner. https://www.dailygrill.com

    The Daily Grill

    Farm – we only went to breakfast once during our visit and I am so glad we chose to eat at Farm. Tucked into the cutest little space right in old Palm Spring, the outdoor patio is bursting with flowers.

    Eggs Benedict at Farm

    Also For Your Consideration

    Outside of the valley we also really enjoyed Cafe Aroma in Idyllwild, Pie at Julian Pie Company as well as La Cucina Mexican in Anza ( no website). All worth a visit if you are in the area.

    Cafe Aroma

    Finally, a shout out to two local microbreweries. If you like to visit brewpubs when traveling don’t miss La Quinta Brewing and Desert Beer Company.

    La Quinta Brewing

    Covid in California

    As of this writing, only outdoor dining is open in California. But the nice weather in the valley makes outdoor dining easy. Most restaurants have expanded their outdoor seating and diners are enjoying the new spaces. Masks are still required. Remember the temperatures drop in the desert so bring an extra layer for evening dining. Also, because of reduced capacity, make a reservation no matter where you want to eat.

    Street Tacos at La Cucina Mexican, Anza

    Read last week’s blog about the Flora of the Desert here.

    See this week’s top performing pin here Book Review Ordinary Grace.

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